While Australia struggled hard for a 4-3 win over Spain in the first quarter-final, Belgium didn’t have much trouble with their 2-0 victory over India’s conquerors New Zealand in the penultimate eight game of the day at Kalinga Stadium.
With the victory over Spain, Australia reached their 12th consecutive semi-finals in the World Cup.
Australia, winner of the 1986, 2010 and 2014 editions, has reached the semi-finals of a World Cup eleven times since the 1978 edition in Buenos Aires.
In the last edition here in 2018, they lost to the Netherlands in a penalty shootout in the semi-finals.
Belgium suffered a shock just before their quarter-final, when their star penalty corner expert Alexander Hendrickx was ruled out of the rest of the tournament after twisting his knee in their final Pool B match against Japan on January 20.
Belgium now waits in the semi-finals for the winner of Wednesday’s quarter-final between England and Germany, while title contender Australia will face the winner of the other eighth match between the Netherlands and South Korea.
It was a tense affair in the quarter-final between Australia and Spain, but Jeremy Hayward’s two penalty corners in the third quarter made all the difference.
Spain captain Marc Miralles made a costly mistake when he failed to score from a penalty stroke four minutes after the final horn, when his team was leading 3-4 in training. Had he scored, the game would have gone to the shootout.
Hayward struck in the 33rd and 37th minutes, as Flynn Ogilvie (30th) and captain Aran Zalewski (32nd) scored field goals for Australia.
Xavier Gispert (20th), Marc Recasens (24th) and Miralles (41st) were the goalscorers for Spain that now go home.
Last time they had finished in a modest 13th place.
Spain denied Australia playing their quick one-touch game in the first quarter. Australia dominated, however, as they conceded three penalty corners in the first 15 minutes, but failed to convert once.
Penalty corner specialist Blake Grover took two without any success, while Hayward tapped once with the same result as the two sides failed to break the deadlock in the first quarter.
But Spain caused a surprise in the second quarter by scoring two goals to one by Australia.
At one point it looked as if a landslide victory was on the line as the European side led 2–0 until the last minute of the second quarter.
Spain scored two fine field goals through Gispert and Recasens to take a 2–0 lead in the 24th minute.
But just seconds into the second quarter, Australia pulled one back and Ogilvie found himself unchallenged in the Spanish batting circle on a pass from Matt Dawson.
Ogilvie struck hard and beat the goalkeeper to relieve the pressure.
If Spain were the better side in the second quarter, Australia were clearly the dominant team in the third quarter as they scored three of the four goals scored in that period.
It was a three-goal burst in the space of five minutes for Australia as Zalewski found goal in the second minute of the third quarter before Hayward struck twice in quick succession in the 33rd and 37th minutes.
From trailing 0-2 just before the end of the second quarter, Australia led 4-2 into the third quarter.
Spain pulled one back four minutes before the end of the third quarter with Miralles scoring from a PC.
The fourth quarter was a hectic game and Spain had a chance to score the equalizer and take the game into the shootout. But Miralles wasted a penalty stroke with Australian goalkeeper Andrew Charter, who was later named player of the match, and blocked the shot with his outstretched left leg.
Later, Belgium took some time to unwind in their quarter-final against New Zealand, but once they did, the defending champions took control, as they each scored a goal in the first and second quarters.
They held onto the 2–0 lead in the first half until the end of the match.
Star attacker Tom Boon opened the scoring for Belgium in the 11th minute from their first penalty corner.
The New Zealand defense fell asleep in the first minute of the second quarter.
Simon Gougnard’s cross from the right side of the ‘D’ went past at least two New Zealand defenders and Florent van Aubel went unmarked to score an easy goal in the 16th minute.
The third and fourth quarters failed to produce a single goal, with Belgium doing most of the attacking, while New Zealand defended their citadel well.
The Black Sticks also put in some spirited challenges in the fourth quarter with some nice offensive moves, but their final touch or deflection didn’t come.